EWA, the professional organization dedicated to improving the quality and quantity of education coverage in the media, hosts regular interviews and panel discussions with journalists and education professionals.
$100K in Debt for a $50K Job
The Wall Street Journal’s investigations team is tackling the student loan debt crisis from multiple angles, including digging into questionable recruiting and loan practices by top schools. Case in point: the University of Southern California’s online graduate program in social work. It charged $115,000 for a master’s last year.
The school offered very little grant aid, so the many students who couldn’t afford that high tuition were encouraged to borrow. The median debt of recent graduates who borrowed: a whopping $112,000. The debtors’ median salary in their first two years after graduation was less than half that: just $52,000.
Data journalist Andrea Fuller explains how the WSJ team found unexpected stories while crunching the available federal numbers on what students and parents owe, and how they came up with estimates of the short-term returns on big-ticket degree programs. She shares tips for identifying red flags in College Scorecard and loan data, and suggestions for how reporters can avoid perpetuating a false narrative that postsecondary education is never worth the cost.
School Librarian Stories Are Overdue
In districts from Boston to Seattle, school librarians are wearing multiple hats these days, from helping teachers with the tech side of remote learning to working with high-need students who lost academic ground during the pandemic shutdown. Librarians are also fending off budget cuts that threaten their positions, and responding to a surge in demands that reading materials about topics like race, racism, and gender identity be removed from the shelves. Kara Yorio, news editor for the School Library Journal, shares insights from the magazine’s new project on the uncertain state of the profession, why having school libraries that are stocked and staffed is an important measure of educational equity, and how reporters can make better use of librarians as story sources.
What Happened to $190 Billion in School COVID-19 Funds?
Congress allocated nearly $200 billion to help schools mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have until 2024 to spend all the funds. But a new investigation by ProPublica found that there’s been minimal tracking by education officials as to how districts have so far allocated the funding.
Reporter Annie Waldman and Reporting Fellow Bianca Fortis dug into the data from 16,000 provisional reports from state agencies and determined half the money was spent on programs, services or goods categorized as “other,” meaning no specifics are readily available. That’s raising questions as to whether districts are upholding the spirit of federal expectations that the money would primarily be used to benefit the neediest students. (Most of the stimulus dollars were targeted to school districts.)
How can local reporters find out how COVID-19 relief funds are being allocated in their local school systems? Where should reporters be especially cautious when looking at the COVID-19 expenditure reports, such as the difference between money that’s been spent vs. obligated for a later purchase? And what are story and sourcing ideas to help education reporters do a more thorough job on school finance reporting more broadly?
When School Board Meetings Become Battlegrounds
Across the nation, school boards find themselves on the front lines for debates over COVID-19 mask mandates and teaching about racism. Heated exchanges during public comment periods have expanded to public protests, threats of violence, and a surge in conservative slates of candidates running for school board seats. In Iowa, Des Moines Register reporters Samantha Hernandez and Melody Mercado are closely covering all angles of the story. How politicized were Des Moines area school boards before the pandemic? What happened when a superintendent defied the governor’s order that all schools resume face-to-face instruction? Are school board protests a grassroots effort in local communities or a well-coordinated campaign by outsiders? Also, Hernandez and Mercado offer tips to journalists on how to report responsibly on controversial topics like critical race theory, make the most of social media as a reporting tool, and successfully seize school board meetings to cultivate new sources.
The Real Story Behind Teacher Shortages
Across the country, school districts are grappling with staffing shortages that are making it tough to recover from the disruptions of the COVD-19 pandemic. Matt Barnum, a national reporter at Chalkbeat, shares insights on the current landscape for school staffing, and debunks some of the often-repeated – but unsubstantiated – assumptions about what might be driving what appears to be a growing crisis. What were some of the preexisting issues around teacher shortages that have been exacerbated by the pandemic? What are districts doing to lure — and keep — more teachers? Who’s tracking the data nationally? And what does the research show about the risk to student learning of frequent teacher turnover? He also offers story ideas for local reporters, smart questions to pose to HR directors and school board members, and what to ask teachers themselves about their decisions to either quit or stay.
How Rural Schools Get Left Behind
Writing for The New York Times Magazine, veteran education journalist Casey Parks takes readers deep inside the struggles of a rural school district in the Mississippi delta that is poised for a state takeover. She also profiles Harvey Ellington, a 16-year-old Black student with big college dreams but few opportunities for advanced learning in his cash-strapped and understaffed high school.
What does a rural school's teacher shortage look like from a student’s perspective? Where can reporters find reliable data on rural student achievement? And what does research say about the impact on local communities from state takeovers?
Parks, a rural Louisiana native who recently joined the staff of The Washington Post, shares candid details about why this story was personal for her. She also offers advice on how to build compelling long-form narratives and provides story ideas on rural schools.
Outstanding discussions, invaluable!
Emily Richmond is extremely knowledgeable and her guests are among the nation's top journalists reporting about education issues. The length is just right, too -- about 13-15 minutes. Just enough to get a sense of the topics, many of which you wouldn't have heard about anywhere else. Check it out and get smarter.
Unique conversations with journalists
The EWA Radio podcast has carved out a unique niche interviewing journalists about stories on education, one of the issues that matters most to people. Host Emily Richmond is always well-prepared and gets the best from her guests. The topics they tackle range widely, everything from finding high-quality child care to coping with college costs. Definitely worth subscribing!